MARSHALL COUNTY — In her own words, Dawn Brauneker Quimby is a “recovering addict, a loving mother and wife.” Childhood trauma triggered over twenty years of addiction. a fire in 2011 changed the course of her life which led to her personal triumph over addiction.
Speaking as an advocate for recovery, she shares her personal testimony to educate the public about the many elements of addiction and recovery. Yesterday’s Pilot News featured the first part of Dawn’s story. Here is part two.
Kathleen Davidson was leading the IOP group. She also led the women’s group, anchored in Hope. Quimby benefited from her counseling with Davidson so much that she volunteered for another year. “I only had to do a year at the Bowen Center, but I volunteered for another year of their classes. Kathleen let me keep coming. When she went to Eric Foster’s (office), I went with her.”
Quimby wanted to reinforce what she had learned, even though her obligation to the program was satisfied. “I felt that even though I had graduated, that I wasn’t done learning and I wasn’t ready. I kept going and I was with her for a total of two years before I felt that I was okay to step away from it. By then I was just relearning everything.”
Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous
Quimby was attending alcoholics anonymous (aa) meetings. “By that point, I was doing aa meetings, I had a sponsor, I was working the steps. I would hit a few Na (Narcotics anonymous) meetings but I wasn’t really very comfortable there because there wasn’t a whole lot of Na meetings around at the time. The ones that were, a lot of the people were forced to go there and weren’t very serious about it and I was very serious about my recovery. I got pretty heavily involved in aa.”
Though Quimby was committed to her counseling sessions, treatment programs, and group sessions, she felt that a part of her complete healing was still missing.
Quimby’s relationship with Davidson grew from client to friend. “By that point, because I wasn’t actually a client, Kathleen and I had developed a pretty close relationship. She was pretty much mentoring me in a spiritual aspect. She really started opening my eyes more and more to my faith. I went to her one day and said, ‘Look, I think it’s time for me to go back to church.’ She started crying and said she had been waiting for this.”
Church: The missing piece & peace
Quimby returned to the church where she was raised, “I started going back to church that my grandparents literally helped build which is Plymouth Missionary Church, with Pastor Pat Puglisi.”
Quimby cried through the entire first service. “The first time that I went back, my grandma and grandpa weren’t there. I kind of feel like that was God’s intervention. He needed grandma and grandpa not to be there so I would focus on the message. I cried through the entire service. I just left there feeling like a piece of my recovery that had been missing was starting to be filled back up.”
“When I started going back to church, I found it. It was the spiritual piece (peace) that I was missing.”
Bread of Life Food Pantry: Giving back to the community
Quimby continued to grow in her faith. “I started talking to Pastor Pat a lot about different things. I started meeting with him.”
Quimby responded to a call out at her church for volunteers needed at the Bread of Life Food Pantry. Quimby began volunteering every Friday during the day while her children were at school. Soon she was volunteering every Wednesday too.
Her time volunteering was not ordered by community corrections, though she started volunteering while still on it. “I still had my ankle bracelet on at the time. But it wasn’t something that I was required to do through community corrections. It was just something that after Pat announced that they needed volunteers, a little lightbulb went off in my head that this was a way for me to give back to a community that I took so much from in my active addiction. This was what I could do to help.”
Eventually Quimby was promoted to lead volunteer on Wednesdays and entrusted with a key to the pantry. She volunteered for four years.
Quimby served a total of three years, two months and 23 days on community corrections. When she appeared before Judge Bowen, Byers reported her progress with the program. Judge Bowen modified Quimby’s sentence off of community corrections and she was released.
Ivy Tech and Peer Recovery Coach Training
Quimby went on to earn a certificate in addiction Studies from Ivy Tech Community College. While taking classes for that, she was recommended by one of her professors for a grant funded peer recovery coach program. Once certified, she was offered a position as a Peer Recovery Coach with Marshall County Community Corrections; the same program she was once serving time in.
July 27: Peer Coach for Community Corrections
Quimby smiled as she shared what it was like for her to be on the other side of community corrections. “I took the training and waited for the certification to come. As soon as I got that, it took about a month for the county to get everything together for me to start. So, I started part time at community corrections as a recovery coach in the same office I wore an ankle bracelet for three years.”
Quimby started teaching women’s substance abuse classes out at the jail. She eventually taught the men’s classes as well.
Quimby believes treatment should be started during incarceration. “I really really loved the substance abuse classes. All of the women were really receptive and open to learning. I really think that the time to start changing lives is while they are incarcerated.”
Quimby noted, “They have nothing else to do. They are going to pay attention. If you can start planting the seed right then and there.”
Quimby also felt that her personal experience with addiction and recovery helped women relate to her. “When I was doing it, it was kind of special too. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve been in their exact shoes. The first classes that I took at Bowen Center was with a counselor who hadn’t been there, hadn’t done that. They only had book knowledge. I could not relate to that person whatsoever and I got absolutely nothing from it. Once they put me in a class where the instructor was a recovering addict themselves and could relate, I related a lot more and was receptive to listening to what they had to say, because they had been there.”
August 7, 2019 was Quimby’s last day at community corrections. Though she loved offering the substance abuse programs to those in the jail, she felt that she was limited in her reach to others serving time in the community corrections program. “It’s really hard to be on the other side of the fence and in that kind of position. I wanted to do more. I felt like the only people I was helping was in the jail groups and I wasn’t really helping the clients with community corrections because I felt like, even though some of them knew my history they didn’t really trust me because I was in the community corrections office.”
Women’s House Manager: Serenity House in Warsaw
Quimby took a job as the Women’s House Manager at the Serenity House in Warsaw where she is working now. “Serenity House is a half-way house for recovering women. Some of them are court ordered to do a program. Some of them, most of them, come in there on their own. It’s really quite different.”
Quimby loves working at the Serenity House. “Working in it and seeing the new girls that come in that are just freshly, some of them are still dealing with the detox, it reminds me every day why I never want to go back to that life. And remembering that in early recovery there is still going to be the manipulation aspect.”
Working at Serenity House has been a learning experience for Quimby. “It’s a learning experience for sure, but I love every one of the girls.”
Kosciusko Drug Court Panel
Quimby sits on the Kosciusko Drug Court panel. Each manager from the three Serenity Houses in Warsaw takes turns sitting on the panel. There are two male house managers in addition to Quimby.
Quimby said, “Kosciusko County has a drug court, which is amazing.”
Quimby believes that Marshall County would benefit from a drug court and explained the difference. “Drug Court completely differs from Superior Court or Circuit Court. Drug Court is a program that is set up to try to help people change their life without them having a felony on their record.”
Quimby emphasized, “Marshall County desperately needs a drug court.”
Quimby said that if more resources had been available to her after her first arrest which was for possession, she may have recovered and avoided further addiction which resulted in additional charges. “If the first time I had been arrested for possession, if I had been sent through a drug court, which a drug court can take anywhere from 6 months to two or three years to get through the program, if I had been sent through a drug court where the resources were available to me and required of me, and I would have started learning those tools then, I might not have had two arrests after that.”
For those who love an addict: Co-dependency Classes
Quimby recommends co-dependency classes for anyone who loves an addict. “For anyone who loves an addict, go get some co-dependency classes. Co-dependency is a huge issue.”
Quimby explained codependency. “You are just like the addict. You are addicted to their chaos.”
Quimby said that co-dependency can make recovery difficult for the addict and their loved one. “People don’t realize that when their loved one does get help and does get on the right track, they are sad about it and they don’t know what to do with themselves. They don’t understand why. It’s because they don’t have their chaos anymore that they were getting high off of.”
Quimby encourages those in recovery to be patient with their family in the face of accusations. “I tell them all, you have to remember that you didn’t destroy their trust in one day. You can’t rebuild it in one day. Them accusing you and you having to defend yourself is a consequence from your drug use. It takes a while. You have to be patient with them.”
Quimby emphasized patience from family as well. “On the other side, the people who are doing the accusing have to realize that’s hurtful. This is the way they were when they lied so much, but maybe they aren’t like that anymore.”
Love without Enabling
Quimby’s heart goes out to parents and those who love an addict. “It’s hard to know how to love an addict without enabling them.”
Quimby said that “tough love” is often required when dealing with a child or loved one suffering from addiction. “From a parents’ standpoint, you may think, if I just let them be at home, I know they will be okay. I can feed them. I can clothe them. I can make sure they are getting a shower. But you are essentially putting dope in their pocket. It frees up whatever money they are getting from other sources to buy their dope with.”
Quimby emphasized that people who love an addict need a support group too. “You’ve got to have your own support group.”
Quimby encourages parents to attend the Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PALS) Support Group meetings at David’s Courage. The meetings are held every Monday starting at 6:30 p.m. “Go to these meetings out at David’s Courage because they will teach you so much.”
On the other side ~ loving an addict
Quimby learned about what it was like to love an addict when her fiancé Cassidy “Cass” Quimby relapsed. “I’ve learned a lot about the other side of addiction through him because he relapsed for a little while. So I went from being the recovering addict to the one who loved a recovering addict.”
Quimby confessed she was angry at first and thought he was being selfish. Quimby set healthy boundaries. “I told him, this is the condition, you have to quit using and you have to go to counseling.”
Cassidy was working in an environment where he was exposed to and offered drugs daily. “Guys were walking up to him and throwing drugs at him. After a while no addict is going to be able to say no to that.”
Cassidy started counseling. He had a bad experience when the counselor broke confidentiality and broke his trust. “He quit that and kept using. I found more drugs. I gave him back his engagement ring and said, ‘Until you can get straight, and stay straight, I’m not going to marry you. You need to decide what’s more important. The drugs or this family, because I’m done.”
Cassidy resolved to recover, attended meetings and proved his commitment to recovery and to his family. They are now happily married, committed to their family, and remain steadfast in their continued recovery.
Three Stages of Relapse
Through counseling and education, Quimby now knows how to cope with those emotions that once overwhelmed her. “There are three stages of relapse that people don’t realize. There’s emotional, mental and then physical relapse.”
Quimby explained, “First you get emotional. Then your mind starts telling you ‘we know what to do to fix this’, and then you physically relapse. You can be in the first two stages of relapse for a long time before you hit the physical part of relapse.”
Quimby can identify when she starts to experience an emotional relapse. “Now, I’ve immersed myself so much in my recovery, that I can tell when I’m starting to have the emotional relapses. I know when I need to call somebody.”
Quimby said these stages apply to any addiction, including alcohol.
Change Everything: People, Places and Things
Quimby said, “One of the first things they tell you in any recovery is change your people, places, and things.” Those suffering in poverty may not be able to relocate.
In Quimby’s case, she was ordered to move back to Marshall County to serve on community corrections. Since Quimby could not change her “places”, she changed her people and things. “When I came back I started doing different things in the community. Our public library has a great summer reading program and they do all kinds of things for the kids. The kids and I pretty much lived at the library for a year, doing all of the different stuff they have going on up there. Being up there, and the kids being in school, I started meeting new people. I realized there was a whole side of Argos I never knew existed.”
She was scared initially, but embraced a different side of the community she once only knew as an addict. “I realized there was a whole other side of Argos that I never knew about. This small, little tiny town. I thought I knew everybody in it and everything. No. I only knew the corrupt people, the criminals and the addicts.”
Stigma & Terminology
“In recovery” and “recovering” are terms used by many who are in the recovery process. Regardless of how long since their last use, or how long they have been ‘clean’, some still identify as an ‘addict’ or an ‘addict in recovery’. Quimby said, “People say, let’s break the stigmas and not call people ‘addicts’, we call them ‘addicted persons’.”
When asked if that was a better term, Quimby answered, “I guess for people who get hung up on terminology it is, but for someone like me, I know I’m an addict. I don’t care what word you say.”
Quimby still attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings to continue to immerse herself in her continued recovery. “At every meeting I introduce myself, ‘I’m Dawn and I’m an addict’. For me, it’s a constant reminder that I need to constantly work on this.”
Choice or Coping with Trauma?
Emotional, physical, mental and sexual trauma can all trigger addiction. Surgeries and accidents that lead to pain relief through an opioid prescription can turn into an addiction. Abusive environments leading to emotional or sexual trauma can lead to pain seeking relief through substance use and abuse. Mental illness, diagnoses or undiagnosed, can impact the effect that a treatment will have on an individual. Every situation is unique.
Genetic testing, similar to testing for genes responsible for certain disorders or cancers, may be the only way to determine who will respond to alcohol, opioids, or other drugs with addiction when others may not. Research is being conducted.
Quimby said, “A lot of people say that addiction is a choice. I do not think that it is a choice for a nine year old that’s trying to cope.”
For anyone who is struggling with addiction and wants help in the recovery process, Quimby says, “Reach out to somebody, anybody.”
For those who have no support system, Quimby recommends attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. From there, an individual can be connected with resources. “There will always be someone at an NA meeting that can direct you to resources if you need more than just the meetings.”
Thriving after Trauma
As a child, Quimby responded to her trauma by using alcohol and marijuana to cope with the overwhelming emotions that she didn’t have the resources to address in a healthy way.
As an adult, Quimby responded to her trauma by committing herself to full recovery.
Quimby didn’t spend time blaming God or even the person responsible for the fire. Instead, she focused her mind, heart and strength, on her physical, emotional, legal and spiritual recovery.
Quimby ultimately embraced the fire as her turning point from addiction and the life she had been pleading with God to save her from. “When the fire happened, I don’t look at it as this guy’s fault because he’s the one that caused it. I look at it as the only way God could see to get me out. He was there with me every step of the way.”
Quimby remembered from the fire, “In the bathroom in the corner, a really bright white light. God was definitely with me every step.”
Quimby said, “He used that to turn everything around for me so that I can be a testimony for him for other people.”
Quimby continues to nurture her faith in God. She is an active member of Parkside Community Church in Argos where she and her family worship God, fellowship with other believers, attend classes, and participate in faith building activities.
Quimby continues to advocate publicly about recovery from addiction. She helps connect those who are struggling with addiction to resources that will aid in their recovery.
She continues to share her personal life story - from trauma to triumph.